On Friday 24 August, as a special treat for completing the first draft of interpretation text for the Mouseion exhibition (much on that to follow), I went to Sheffield’s Site Gallery to see the current exhibition, print it*.
It’s a combination of several projects, but includes a stunning exhibition of printed books and other print press works on paper, created by Coracle Press between 1989-2012. Coracle Press is based in Ireland right now, but I think originated in Norfolk (not least as the title of the touring exhibition and its stunning accompanying book is ‘Printed in Norfolk’). Simon Cutts is its founder (or one of them?)- and his simple, beautiful, both profound and warm words reflect the aesthetic of the printed material. I like his poem, ‘le Marche’ (with an ‘e’ acute, as in ‘market’, not ‘march’, but can’t work out how to do the accent – I should have a printing press, not a computer, then I could sort through the letters and find the things I need manually…)
I looked for a lettuce but bought a petticoat
(Simon Cutts in RGAP 2012 Printed in Norfolk: Coracle Publications 1989-2012, Research Group for Artist Publications, Sheffield, p.25). Brings to mind wandering through Breton markets, eating crepes with my grandmother as my mother looked on, horrified that we were eating on the street…
Back to print it*. The visual quality of the exhibition is stunning: minimal interpretation, simply presented, and also tactile: visitors can actually pick up and read the books, postcards, invitations and so on. Which means that I spent a lot longer time in there absorbing things than I would have done had I not been able to pick things up. And it really made me want to do some printing – of words, images, thoughts and ideas. And of course, since I am curating the Mouseion exhibition in Leicester’s School of Museum Studies at the moment, it gave me a lot of food for thought and ideas to send to my PhD colleague and friend Cy Shih, who is the designer of the exhibition – I’d love to keep it with this printing press feel – with thick textured paper or card, creams and deep browns. Further exhibition images show more detail of some of the works.
In addition to the Norfolk exhibition, the team at Site had also produced a Pop-Up Artist Bookshop – which incorporated many of the things from the exhibition, by Coracle Press, as well as from other printing studios around the world. Something that I found incredibly moving was Susan Howe’s ‘Poems from a Pioneer Museum’, copied below from the website:
|Poems From A Pioneer Museum
Susan Howe 2009
32 letterpress cards printed on Canaletto Liscio paper
An extravagant purchase I couldn’t resist. Not only is it a gorgeous series of printed cards, it is in a green baize box – a proper museum object of museum objects and catalogue entries. I love it. Useful (for teaching, example giving, idea generation) but also a nice THING. And this purchase didn’t fulfil my desire to possess things entirely either – so I ended up with a stack of things in addition to the catalogue: some Erica van Horn postcards and a book ‘Rusted: Six Small Iron Articles of Unknown Use – found and drawn Ballybeg 2004′ – I think that this would complement Hazel Jones’ A1 Scrap Metal project.
Erica Van Horn 2004
16pp laser and letterpress in two colours, sewn with wrappers 150 x 105.100 numbered copies.2nd edition of 150 copies 2007
And ‘The Die is Cast’ by Caroline Bergvall & Nick Thurston – a book of sayings and proverbs which have been merged and mixed together through the pagination and binding of the book – which Karl & Kimberley Foster would like in their Object Dialogue Box ‘first aid kits’ – how phrases can set and spark the imagination… ‘You can’t judge a / spade’ or ‘Call a spade a / book by its cover’. It is strange how everything I am currently doing in my PhD and extra-PhD world seems to have been whizzing through my head while I looked at this exhibition – its design, content, interpretation, objects, reasons, people, ideas. Everything is interlinked. Always.
Another artist’s book that I bought was Chloe Brown’s ‘Coming Ready Or Not’, which although written in 2000, before I knew her, is a little reminder (of some of the better days of that rather hellish project we ran together – another story…).
So that was my journey into printing and presses, poetry and purity, words both intangible and tangible.